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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Utahn stirs things up on "The Bachelor" — a "gay scandal"?

Yet another Utahn will make a major impression on "The Bachelor" when that show begins its 16th season on Monday (7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4). And, no, not a good impression.

Following in the footsteps of Desiree Valentin, Michelle Money and Bentley Williams is Monica Spannbauer, a 33-year-old "dental consultant" who lists Salt Lake City as her place of residence.

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(Spannbauer grew up in Yuba City., Calif., and went to dental hygienist school in Las Vegas.)

At first Monica is just a little goofy.

"Oh, hell," she says as she gets out of the limo to meet bachelor Ben Flajnik. "I'm Monica. So, I have a confession. I, uh, miss my dog more than anything."

At least she didn't ride in on a horse. Or walk past him without speaking. Or bring a relative. Or wear a big, ugly hat while, at the same time, show more cleavage than you would think possible.

But when next we see her, Monica has had a few drinks. Which may or may not explain everything that follows.

Another of the women, Jenna, takes offense when Monica admits she's not in love with Ben, a guy she's never met.

Jenna: "Do you have feelings for Ben?"

Monica: "No."

Jenna: "You feel nothing?

Monica: "No."

Jenna: "Nothing?"

Monica: "No."

This greatly upsets Jenna, who's been drinking the "Bachelor" Kool-Aid.

"There are women who are not here for the right reasons," Jenna says. "To be honest, like, in my opinion, if I didn't have the slightest attraction to him, I'd be gone. I'd be on to something else."

Jenna: "You do not feel the urge to go home?"

Monica: "No."

Jenna: "What keeps you here?"

Monica: "It's getting a rose."

Monica's behavior is clearly off-putting. She acts drunk; she seems to be toying with Jenna; and she's repeatedly bleeped because of her language. Including a few obvious f-bombs.

"Like, I'm a fighter if I need to be," she says. "I'm actually a nice girl. I come off very aggressive, but I'm not."

And at this point things REALLY get weird. Monica tells another of the women, Blakely, that she loves her.

'I'm not supposed to like girls, but I like 'em," Monica says. "She's real and she's amazing. I love her.

"Her beauty, her eyes. God! There's something to be said about a gorgeous, real woman."

Jenna refers to Monica as "the girl that attacked me and her girlfriend."

"Are they making out?" asks one of the other women.

"I'm not sure about Monica," says another. "I think she's more interested in the girls than she is in Ben."

"Monica and Blakely are holding hands and looking like the lesbian couple," says yet another.

One gossip rag is calling this a "gay scandal," although that seems vastly overstated.

Jenna, who has gotten away from Monica, inexplicably confronts her again. And Monica appears to have had a few more drinks.

"If this girl punches me in the face, I am going to (bleep) her over," Monica says.

"She is here to stir up (bleep) and cause trouble," Jenna says.

Ah, they chose such classy women this time!

The weird effort at detente ends more oddly than you can imagine.

"Maybe we can share a tampon sometime," Jenna says.

"That was weird," Monica says, quite accurately.

And Jenna cries. A lot.

It's so strange. It's so off-putting. It's so everything-that's-wrong-about-"The Bachelor."

It's hard to tell how much is the real Monica and how much is Monica acting a role. Clearly, however, she makes a big, bad impression in Monday's episode.

But is she the villain? Well, maybe not.

Monica certainly isn't Miss Congeniality, but Jenna acts plenty crazy herself.

ABC is counting on the voyeurs among us to keep "The Bachelor" going.



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